The rising artists of Illinois have an abiding sense of humor and are not afraid to use it.
That's in evidence in the latest show at the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington. From an embarrassing childhood incident to an exploration of unconventional materials, this triennial exhibition highlights how artists of the prairie state push the boundaries of their art, sharing stories both playful and personal.
The 2019 Emerging Illinois Artists exhibition is currently on view at the MCAC through May 24. The show features wide ranging works from 18 MFA artists from across the state. The show was juried by Tempestt Hazel, an independent curator and writer.
Maggie Morton, curator at the McLean County Arts Center, said this particular show is their effort to foster student artists from around the state, to give them a platform to express themselves. While the collection is varied, there is a strong pulse of humor and playfulness that runs through the exhibition. There's "Chromosome 16" by Katie Nettie, which is a stoneware vessel covered in pimple-like bumps that spout hair. Human hair. Is it Katie's?
"That's a good question," Morton laughed. "I don't know. She didn't tell me that."
Across the gallery is a work that was inspired by an incident that might not have been amusing at the time, but certainly made enough of an impact on the artist that she now has immortalized the moment in ceramic and crochet. It's called "Piss Pants" and the artist is Sarah Kramer. A selection of yellow droplets rendered of clay seem to drip from the crotch a pair of crocheted cotton panties.
"Sarah told me that this was about an experience she had as a child, when she was in church, in line with other children to go up to the altar. And she wet her pants."
"Nothing is really off limits or too sacred to be talked about," said Morton of many of the playful works in the show. "Younger artists these days are not taking themselves too seriously. It's probably a reflection of the environment that they're growing up in. I think the internet is largly responsibe for that sort of perspective where there is room for humor in everything."
The show also features a work by painter Jenna Grotelueschen. "(Dis)junction" is a work in oil where the artist attempts to recreate the world through her father's eyes.
"Her father has a condition that effects his vision," explained Morton. "And so she paints spaces in the way she images him to see the world. Her work is very strong. She has a great use of color and it's a very interesting perspective that she gives us."
2019 Emerging Illinois Artists also features a pair of works by Tracy Welling. "Delusions of Grandeur" is a spectacular Elizabethan-style gown constructed of brass, leather, silk, mesh, and pearls. It's a wearable work of art—if you dare. Maggie Morton wouldn't.
"I think I'd be too worried about the delicate weaving," Morton demured.
It might be safer to wear Welling's other piece in the show: a copper mesh necklace.
And you could wear it, too, because most of the pieces on the show are for sale (Nope. Not "Piss Pants." Sorry.) Morton said sales of the works helps to foster young artists.
"It's an opportunity for collectors or people who are interested in art to find artists that haven't been discovered yet."
2019 Emerging Illinois Artists will be up through May 24 at the McLean County Arts Center in Bloomington.
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